Camera Reviews

Nikon F50

In 1994, when the Nikon F50 was new, we didn’t know whether digital photography would ever be good enough to replace film. Maybe companies like Nikon could see the day coming, but they had cameras to sell in the meantime. Nikon in particular kept evolving its lines of 35mm SLRs, including those at the entry level like this F50, which was called the N50 in North America.

Nikon F50D

Nikon’s SLRs moved slowly toward what we now consider the standard idiom, with an on/off switch around the shutter button, a mode dial, and an LCD display of settings. The F50 added the LCD display, but not the rest. A series of buttons around the LCD display let you choose most of the camera’s settings — not as simple as a mode dial, but not hard to figure out.

First, set the Simple/Advanced switch to Advanced. Then press the leftmost button to enter selection mode. The LCD panel lights up with P S A M; press the button above the mode you want. In P mode, press a button for the sub-mode you want; there are a bunch of them including a macro mode and a sports mode. I just used Auto, which is the first option on the left. For the S, A, and M modes, select aperture, shutter speed, or both using the buttons. If you need a little help figuring it out, here’s a manual at the wonderful Butkus site. Or set the Simple/Advanced switch to Simple and just use the F50 like a big point and shoot.

Nikon F50D

My F50 is technically an F50D because it has the date back. Not that I’m ever going to use it. The camera is a good size, noticeably smaller than the semi-pro N90s which was made around the same time. I recently got to shoot a Minolta Maxxum HTsi, which is smaller than this F50. The Minolta handled easily enough, but the F50’s slightly larger size made it even easier to handle.

Nikon F50D

The F50 is surprisingly heavy, though! Nikon’s next two entry-level 35mm SLRs, the N60 and N65, weigh next to nothing in comparison. The F50 isn’t as heavy as my all-metal Nikon F2, but it’s got noticeable heft.

The F50 offers a self timer, but it doesn’t offer mirror lockup, depth-of-field preview, or cable release. It reads the DX coding on your film to set ISO from 25 to 5000, but you can override ISO manually down to 6 and up to 6400. It uses Nikon’s famous matrix metering except in manual exposure mode, when it switches to center-weighted metering. Its shutter operates from 1/2000 to 30 sec. You can use most AF Nikkor lenses with it, and many AI Nikkor lenses in manual exposure mode. The F50 automatically loads, winds, and rewinds your film. A typical Nikon-style LCD inside the viewfinder shows exposure settings. A 2CR5 battery powers everything.

Speaking of winding, mine is a little on the loud side, and sounds weak and wobbly. There’s an odd, slight disconnect between pressing the shutter button and the shutter firing. It doesn’t inspire confidence, but you do get used to it. In contrast, when you press the button on the N60 or N65, it fires immediately and the winder is crisp and quiet.

If you like auto-everything SLRs, especially check out my reviews of these Nikons: the N90s, the N60, the N65, and the N8008. I’ve also reviewed the Canon EOS 650, EOS 630, EOS Rebel, EOS Rebel S, and EOS A2E. If you fancy Minolta, see my reviews of the Maxxum 7000, Maxxum 7000i, Maxxum 9xi, and Maxxum HTsi.

I mounted my 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens and loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus, which I developed it in Adox HR-DEV 1+30. This was my first go with this film/developer combination. I wasn’t wowed. The scans needed heavy post-processing and some of them could not be made to look good. I later learned that this developer, once opened, should be used within six months — and this bottle had been open at least that long. Perhaps that contributed to the meh results. I let the rest of the bottle go.

1 Thess 5:16-17

It was far below freezing outside, so I shot this roll around the house. This Sears box camera is missing the red plastic bit over the exposure-counter window around back. I need to repair that before I can shoot and review it. But it made a fine subject for my F50. I shot a handful of other cameras with it, but they all suffered from shake as I shot them handheld. In Program mode, the F50 chose apertures of f/3.3 and f/4.5 with shutter speeds of 1/15, 1/20, and 1/30 sec. I normally have a very steady hand and can get away with shutter speeds down to 1/15, but not on this roll.

Tower 120

I was at a bit of a loss for subjects, so I reached for anything that I thought would work, like this orange. The tablecloth on the dining table had an interesting texture so that’s where I placed the orange.

Orange

This is where I write this blog and process my photographs. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s also where I work. I spend a lot of time in that chair staring at that screen. As you can see, I have a lot of wires running about, which I don’t enjoy. Someday I’ll figure out a good wire management solution.

At my desk

I did make a few photos outside, but only by sticking my head and the camera out the door. One day during the cold snap we got about a foot of snow. My wife grabbed our youngest son (who’s 20 and hardly a child!) and a couple plastic snowboards and sledded down the back-yard hill. A zoom lens would have let me move in closer without having to step outside! The F50 did a reasonable job of setting exposure in the snow.

Sledding

I wanted to see how this Nikon F50 handled with the kinds of subjects I normally shoot. So I loaded some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 and mounted my 28-80mm f/3.3-4.5G AF Nikkor lens. I first used it to chase our granddaughter around to make a couple candid photos of her. She’s hard to capture perfectly still!

Playing with blocks

I love this 28-80mm zoom and turn to it often. It handles easily, has good sharpness, and resolves subjects well with little distortion, except at 28mm. I generally zoom it out no more than 35mm.

Little bus

I finished the roll on a couple walks outside in near-freezing weather, the F50 in my hand unprotected in the cold. It just kept on working.

Sidewalk closed

The snow from the day I photographed my wife on her sled was beginning to melt. It made for a soggy walk through downtown Zionsville.

the flower shop

I was very happy with these images. They required next to no tweaking in Photoshop — little more than applying the “Auto Tone” command to brighten everything up.

Black Dog Books

See more photos from this camera in my Nikon F50 gallery.

I really enjoyed using the Nikon F50. It’s a terrific auto-everything 35mm SLR. This one was a gift from a reader to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras, but a quick look at eBay shows these selling for between $10 and $30, often with a zoom lens attached. The main concern with electronic auto-everything cameras is how robust they are, and whether they can be repaired when they fail. I’ve personally had much better experience with Nikon autoexposure and autofocus cameras working for the long haul than the other brands I’ve tried, namely Canon and Minolta. It’s why I recommend cameras like this F50 to people curious about film photography.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.

Standard
Wet winter street

Wet winter street
Minolta Maxxum HTsi
35-80mm f/4-5.6 Minolta Maxxum Zoom
Ilford HP5 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2021

I made this photo just a few weeks ago, and now it’s essentially spring. This same scene is dry, with grass greening up, daffodils and crocus in bloom, and buds appearing on the trees.

We have a saying in Indiana. Maybe you have a similar one where you are. “If you don’t like the weather here, wait five minutes.”

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Wet winter street

Melting snow on a small-town street, on Ilford HP5 Plus.

Image
Electric

Power tower
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2021

I’m fascinated with the power lines that run through my neighborhood, and with this tower in particular. I’ve photographed it over and over. I still haven’t found the best composition involving it. I suppose I’ll keep trying until either I nail it or I move away.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Power tower

A tower of power.

Image
No Outlet

No Outlet
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2021

Now that my new (used) dedicated 35mm scanner has solved my problem getting good scans of my 35mm negatives, I’m less satisfied with the medium-format scans my flatbed delivers. These scans are miles better than what my flatbed can deliver with 35mm negatives, but they’re still not great.

With this roll, I played around with VueScan’s built-in film profiles. VueScan has a paltry selection of them, far fewer than what rival SilverFast offers. There was no Ilford FP4 Plus profile, for example. But I tried the Kodak T-Max 100 profile, and it immediately balanced the contrast in these negatives.

The Clack is capable of better sharpness than this. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get good sharpness from my flatbed. Could it be the device itself? Or is it the software; should I try SilverFast? Meh, bleh, what a pain. It’s just easier to send my film to the lab and let them deal with it.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: No Outlet

A sign I photograph a lot because it’s right by my home.

Image
Snowman

Olaf?
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B

2021

I seldom have nice things to say about living in this vinyl village. Here’s one nice thing: plenty of families here do fun things together, like build snowmen.

I suppose families are the whole point of neighborhoods like this. For far less than anywhere else in this surprisingly wealthy town, you can get your kids into good schools. This neighborhood overflows with children. In nice weather, lots of them play in their yards and sometimes in the streets. One family down the street wheels a portable basketball goal to the curb, and the kids shoot hoops for hours. Another family on my block rents a bounce house at least once a summer, which brings in kids from far and wide.

It reminds me a little of the neighborhood I grew up in. There were so many kids, the parents took to calling it Rabbit Hill. Families on Rabbit Hill weren’t nearly as well off as families in this neighborhood, so we didn’t have bounce houses or portable basketball goals. But we still made plenty of fun together. Those houses were cheaply built, as are these. It didn’t matter to us. It was grand to have so many kids to play with. I’m sure the kids here feel the same.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Olaf?

A snowman in a neighbor’s yard.

Image
Mail station

Mail station
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B

2021

It’s useful to know which old cameras work well in the cold. It’ll be only a small, select group — old mechanical gear usually gums up when temps fall below freezing.

I took my Agfa Clack out to see how it performed. It went on two frigid photo walks after a snowfall. I have this Korean War-era, wool-lined Army trench coat, and I get it out when it’s either below zero, or below freezing and I’m going to be outside for a while. The Clack fit into the roomy side pocket. But that pocket isn’t lined. The Clack was only slightly warmer in it than it would have been if I had held it in my hand. Every time I got it out, it performed fine.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

Film Photography

single frame: Mail station

The mail station in my subdivision on a snowy day.

Image